Brad Mehldau Wigs Out In London For Two Nights

While Brad Mehldau’s live album recorded at the French Marciac festival has been delayed for the foreseeable future, the latest leg in his Wigmore Hall jazz series takes place tonight, when he plays a rare duet with saxophonist Joshua Redman who is currently enjoying a purple patch following the release of his latest album Compass earlier in the year. Mehldau and Redman go way back. Dig out Moodswing which the Joshua Redman Quartet recorded in 1994 with the pair joined by bass behemoth Christian McBride and influential Wayne Shorter Quartet drummer, Brian Blade.

The concert is followed tomorrow by the return of the Brad Mehldau Trio to a London concert hall a year on from their last appearance in the capital. That gig at the Barbican even impressed notably hard-to-please Guardian rock critic Alexis Petridis who wrote at the time how he was “completely enraptured by their version of Sufjan Stevens' ‘Holland’”.

With longstanding bassist Larry Grenadier and relative newcomer Jeff Ballard (well known for his work with Chick Corea) the trio has become one of the most influential trios in contemporary jazz even if its discography with Ballard is quite slender. While the first trio with drummer Jorge Rossy distinguished itself with five Art of the Trio recordings from 1997-2001, it was in retrospect the transitional phase of Mehldau’s career, although as the albums tumbled out the trio became a truly impressive improvising vehicle achieving considerable critical acclaim.

A turning point, however, was reached when Rossy took the decision to leave and base himself once in Spain developing new projects there. The 2005 album Day Is Done, when Ballard first made his mark, showed an astonishing empathy the trio had in reinterpreting rock material framed by a post modern-jazz sensibility, notably using Radiohead and Lennon/McCartney songs as improvising starting points, a process that reached its almost natural conclusion on the Live album which came out last year, marking a return to the Village Vanguard club in New York when Mehldau spectacularly took on Noel Gallagher’s ‘Wonderwall’ in the spirit of "don’t even think about blinking first".

With the ability to inspire devotion and admiration in equal measure with audiences like no other comparable jazz trio since the early days of the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio or E.S.T., the trio has made giant strides in a relatively short time. The contrast provided by these two concerts, with Redman’s laconic and infectious bluesy swing tonight alternating with the trio’s darker impulses tomorrow, should offer a fascinating glimpse into the current direction of these world-class improvisers.

– Stephen Graham

For remaining tickets tel: 020 7935 2141.

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